“Whose” vs. “Who’s”: What’s the Difference?

part of speech and example sentence for "whose" and "who's"
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Trying to decide between whose and who’s can make you feel pretty confused (and maybe a little like an owl). Some people just throw up their arms and pick the one with an apostrophe every time — after all, apostrophes are always correct, right? Not really. You don’t need to seek out an owl when it comes to whose vs. who’s; just figure out which part of speech you’re dealing with.

How To Choose Between “Whose” and “Who's”

Both whose and who's are forms of the pronoun who. They refer to an unknown person in both questions and statements.

As homophones, whose and who’s sound alike, but they function in different ways.

  • Whose is a possessive adjective.
    (Whose shoes are these?)
  • Who's is a contraction for who is or who has.
    (Who's seen this movie?)

Tip to remember: If you’re showing ownership, always use whose. If you’re saying “who is” or “who has,” always use who’s. You’ll never be wrong if you follow those rules.

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When To Use "Whose": Showing Ownership

When you use whose in a sentence, you're indicating that a noun owns something. In a question, whose asks about ownership — but in a statement, whose shows ownership instead.

How To Use “Whose” in a Question

When whose appears in a question (also known as an interrogative sentence) it functions as an interrogative adjective because it modifies a noun.

  • Whose house is this?
  • Do you know whose jacket this is?
  • Whose keys are these?

Whose can also be an interrogative pronoun when it replaces the noun completely.

  • Whose is this?
  • Do you know whose this is?
  • Whose are these?

How To Use “Whose” in a Statement

When the word whose comes before a relative clause, it functions as a relative pronoun (like that or which) to provide more information about a noun. 

  • My cousin, whose house just burned down, needs a place to stay.
  • Our family went on vacation with the Millers, whose rules are different from ours.
  • Stephanie has a dog whose ears stick straight up.
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When To Use "Who's": “Who Is” or “Who Has”

So how does who's work in a sentence? There are only two times to use who's: when you're writing a contraction for who is or who has.

How To Use “Who’s” To Say “Who Is”

You'll find the word who's replacing "who is" in present tense and present progressive sentences. It typically comes before an adjective or participle (known as a predicate adjective).

  • Who's going to the football game?
  • Go see who's hungry for pizza.
  • Who's knocking on the door?

Who's also appears before a noun that describes the subject of the sentence (a predicate noun or predicate nominative) For example:

  • Who's Harvey?
  • Who's your best friend?
  • Who's the new teacher?

How To Use “Who’s” To Say “Who Has”

When who's replaces "who has," it's in a perfect present sentence to show that an action has happened before this moment. For example:

  • Who's been eating my birthday cake?
  • Who's traveled across the country?
  • We questioned anyone who's known the suspect for more than a year.
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Examples of “Whose” vs. “Who’s”

Now that you’ve got the definitions straight, it’s easy to use whose and who’s correctly. It may seem more complicated when you see them in a sentence — but the rules always hold up.

  • Incorrect: Do you know who’s dog this is?
  • Correct: Do you know whose dog this is?
    (Whose comes before the noun dog to show possession)
  • Incorrect: Don, whose graduating next year, is a great football player.
  • Correct: Don, who’s graduating next year, is a great football player.
    (Who’s comes before the verb graduating to shorten who is graduating)

Why Does “Whose” vs. “Who’s” Matter?

Because whose vs. who’s have such different uses, mixing them up in writing can confuse your readers. Sometimes, they might both seem right — but with different meanings. For example:

  • Who’s Barbie? (Who is Barbie?)
  • Whose Barbie? (Whose Barbie doll is this?)
  • Who’s back? (Who has returned?)
  • Whose back? (Whose back (body part) is this?)
  • Who’s home? (Who is at home?)
  • Whose home? (Who owns this home?)
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Whose vs. Who’s Quiz

Can you choose the correct word to complete each sentence?

  1. Check to see (who’s, whose) ready to go.
  2. Have you found out (who’s, whose) car this is?
  3. My neighbor, (who’s, whose) a great guy, mowed our lawn.
  4. My neighbor, (who’s, whose) mower works better than mine, mowed our lawn.
  5. (Who’s, whose) hungry for more pizza?
  6. Please help that bird (who’s, whose) wing is caught in a net.

Answer Key for Whose vs. Who’s Quiz

Read each answer carefully to make sure you understand the difference between whose and who’s.

  1. Check to see (who’s, whose) ready to go.
  2. Have you found out (who’s, whose) car this is?
  3. My neighbor, (who’s, whose) a great guy, mowed our lawn.
  4. My neighbor, (who’s, whose) mower works better than mine, mowed our lawn.
  5. (Who’s, whose) hungry for more pizza?
  6. Please help that bird (who’s, whose) wing is caught in a net.